DANVILLE, Pa. (WTAJ) — Sponsored Content by Geisinger Health System — Nigel W. Sparks, MD, recently joined the orthopedic team in Geisinger’s Western Region.

A graduate of Penn State University, Dr. Sparks is well known in the community and across the country for his success on the soccer field and for his outstanding professional career as a surgeon with professional sports teams.

“We’re excited to have Dr. Sparks join us,” said Michael Sobolewski, DO, orthopaedics division chief for Geisinger’s Western Region. “He brings a wealth of knowledge that benefits our patients. His ties to the local community are invaluable to his service to the central Pennsylvania area and to Geisinger.”

Dr. Sparks’ early years

Dr. Sparks is no stranger to hard work and commitment. From a young age, he knew he wanted to become a doctor. “I was from a single-parent home. To make it, I knew I needed to earn an athletic scholarship to get through college,” he shared. Excelling on the soccer field, Dr. Sparks did just that, earning an athletic scholarship to study at Penn State University.

Penn State, the Olympic team and the Philadelphia Freedom

Dr. Sparks continued to shine athletically and academically in college. He earned academic and All-American honors and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. And as a senior, he received the prestigious Bill Jeffrey Soccer Award.

Also while earning his bachelor’s degree, he played soccer with the Canadian national Olympic team, where he continued to excel on the field. But Dr. Sparks wasn’t finished with his education. To get through medical school, he joined the Philadelphia Freedom professional soccer team.

Serving across the country

Dr. Sparks’ impressive and extensive professional career took him through the academic and private sectors and across the country for the past two decades. Most notably, he was the team physician for the Jacksonville Jaguars football team and the Seattle Sounders soccer team.

Returning to Happy Valley: ‘A full circle moment’

After leaving Centre County in the ’90s, and living in large cities, Dr. Sparks wasn’t sure how it would feel to be back in a smaller community.

“In some ways, it feels like I never left. There’s a better sense of community here. It’s a great place to raise a family.”

The Sparks family, which includes his wife and three children, live in the heart of the State College area. “We’re very happy here. It’s a full circle moment,” he said.

A sense of community

And when it comes to professional community Dr. Sparks said, “I’ve been through many health systems, and this is the first organization where everyone has been super nice and welcoming. There’s a sense of community here. There’s a drive and direction on where we need to go. It’s really a progressive system.”

Strains, sprains and fractures: How to tell them apart

Basketball practice is done for the day, and your child comes home complaining of a sore ankle or aching wrist after a fall on the court.

How do you know if it’s a strain, a sprain — or a more serious fracture?

While any severe pain might warrant a visit to your pediatrician, orthopaedic urgent care or even the ER, sprains, strains and fractures are different injuries with different symptoms. Here’s what to look for the next time your kid — or you — twist an ankle or take a fall.

A sprain occurs when you stretch or tear ligaments, which are the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect the bones in your joints.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Limited mobility
  • Swelling
  • Brusing

You can also ask your young athlete if they recall hearing or feeling a pop when the injury occurred. This can also be a sign of a sprain.

A strain is slightly different. It happens when you injure a muscle or tendon — the tissue that attaches muscle to bone. This can result from a single action or repeated actions that place stress on a muscle or tendon.

Like a sprain, a strain may cause pain, bruising and swelling. Other symptoms include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Cramping
  • Weakness
  • Immobility

The activities associated with lots of sports — such as pivoting quickly on a basketball court or running on a wet, slippery soccer field — tend to lead to both strains and sprains.

Although they affect different tissues, strains and sprains can both benefit from treatment using the RICE method:

R – Rest the injury for 48 hours

I – Apply ice for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day

C – Compress the injury to reduce swelling

E – Elevate the injured limb about eight inches above the heart

Even better than treatment? Prevention. Encourage your young athlete to know their limits and warm up before any rigorous activity. Wearing all suggested safety gear and properly fitting shoes can also help ward off injury.

Mild sprains and strains can usually be treated at home. However, it’s time to seek professional medical care if you’re concerned your child has fractured a bone.

Visit the doctor if your child:

· Can’t move the joint

· Can’t bear to put weight on the limb

· Experiences numbness in the injured area

· Has swelling or bruising directly over a bone

If you think your child might have a fracture, or if the pain of a strain or sprain won’t go away, visit one of Geisinger’s convenient orthopedic urgent care walk-in clinics. You’ll have a consultation with a specialist — with no appointment necessary.

Proper care of sports-related injuries can alleviate pain and help prevent future problems. We look forward to helping you keep your young athlete safe and healthy, and getting them back in the game, injury-free and ready to play.

Geisinger has two orthopaedic urgent care locations in your area. Stop in weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. And orthopaedic urgent care at Geisinger Healthplex State College is also open Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon.